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Forrester: SharePoint, On Its Own, Isn’t Cut Out for BPM

April 27, 2010

This interesting article from CMSwire summarizes a new Forrester report titled SharePoint and BPM — Finding The Sweet Spot. They reach a similar conclusion as in my What is SharePoint post regarding using it for BPM or an application framework: that while SharePoint does a lot of things well, it becomes brittle when you try to use it for managing more than simple business processes.

According to CMSwire, Forrester offers several reasons why SharePoint 2010 offers limited support for BPM, including:

  • Out of the box, SharePoint processes are simple, so seamless business processes require custom coding.
  • To build a real business process application, there’s a lot of custom coding you will have to do and that takes time, costs money and introduces a number of problems related to the flexibility of the SharePoint application.
  • Because SharePoint can only offer procedural-based processes without complex coding, it can’t easily offer the ability to adapt processes to handle exceptions in typical BPM implementations.
  • Processes are constrained by Windows Workflow Foundation (WF). When developers build process-oriented applications that leverage WF, they often find themselves hard-coding static, brittle interfaces that add to the total cost of ownership (TCO)
  • Site collections, while great for helping organize content and information, can be a major problem when developing business processes that cross organizational boundaries and complicate multi-departmental processes.

To this list, I’ll add a couple more observations:

  • SharePoint largely ignores BPMS functionality around:
    1. business activity monitoring (BAM) and business event support,
    2. simulation and optimization, and
    3. business rule management
  • Because process configuration is done inside SharePoint Designer, it isolates the business from design that can help feed and tune execution

And this why even Microsoft encourages finding an integrated partner application to fill an Enterprise BPM requirement. Some of the vendors that offer solutions that work in varying degrees with SharePoint include AgilePoint, Global 360, K2, MetaStorm, and Nintex.  So, before launching a BPM initiative on top of SharePoint, investigate BPM vendors and how well they enhance BPM for SharePoint. You will likely end up spending less time and money and having a more rich and agile solution when all is  done.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alana Schock permalink
    May 9, 2010 6:47 am

    Great reflection and advice, Jon. One more thing I might add to the list is that if you are working in an organization where imaged documents are important BPMS process activity inputs/attachments, you’ll run into issues there as well. The Sharepoint BPMS gap is matched by a Sharepoint content management gap with respect to imaged documents, requiring the same “integrated partner” approach to fill that gap. However, of the list of BPMS vendors you mentioned, it appears to me from product demos/webinars that the Global 360 product handles both of these gaps, especially with the recent overhaul of the product to be so tightly integrated with Sharepoint. It was evident to me that they really kept a document-centric organization in mind – for example, by having an out of the box Sharepoint and process integrated document viewer.

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